It’s a cold morning—the coldest yet of the season—as clients from the Curative Care Senior Center amble into Sunset Bowl in Waukesha.
Hands are cold. Feet are cold. Elderly bodies are bundled in heavy coats and thick hats cover heads. The men and women embark from a shuttle bus and head into the alley for their weekly bowling session, accompanied by students from Carroll’s physical therapy and occupational therapy programs.
For the men and women from the care center, this is therapy, a fun outing that gets muscles moving, increases metabolisms and raises spirits. For the students, this is learning.
Carroll students have been doing this for years, gaining critical experiences in working with a diverse population—a real hands-on education. This year, students from occupational therapy have joined the physical therapy students as the university aims to provide them with a more realistic experience.
This morning, the students and their clients talk about the single digit air temperature outside. But slowly, the movement—the slow walk to the lane and the weight of the ball in the hand, combines with the enthusiasm of the students, and the thaw begins.
“Ok, it’s your time to shine now, dear,” says a PT student to an elderly woman with a walker. They walk together to the lane, him carrying her bowling ball.
There’s body learning going on here, as students collaborate and work on the fly to accommodate the physical abilities and limitations of the bowlers, but the larger lesson may well be in compassion, in viewing the person as more than a series of limitations—a whole person.
As the students engage with the bowlers, guiding them to and from their seats, the gentle grasp of the gait belt (a wide belt worn around the bowlers’ waists to allow students to support and guide) leads to hands on shoulders and to gentle pats on the back and then to high fives and hand holding.
It’s cold outside. And at 10 in the morning, the bowling alley hasn’t hit peak heat yet, but it’s already a much warmer place.